A Prison Visit


 Originally Published on OMIWORLD.ORG

A youth organization founded by and accompanied by Italian Oblates has recently experienced the corporal work of mercy of visiting a prison, much like the Oblate Founder, St. Eugene de Mazenod, did as a young priest. The Movimento Giovanile Costruire (Youth Movement “To Build” or MGC) sent 15 of its members to visit a prison in the Tuscan city of Prato, thanks to Annamaria GENTILI of the Oblate Cooperators of Mary Immaculate (COMI), who teaches prisoners there.

The youth sang at two Sunday morning Masses last May, one in the medium security section and the other in the maximum security section. One of the MGC members, Andrea Cuminatto, tells of the experience:

“In this experience, we didn’t do anything other than sing at two Masses, but this small gesture was most valuable for the prisoners who were excited about our visit and who tried to linger as long as possible (within the limits of the strict prison rules) to speak with us and to share their own experiences. Many of them have discovered (or rediscovered) the faith while in prison. But it is not an atmosphere where it is easy to live the faith and our simple offering at the Sunday Mass was seen as a big event.

“For us, it was a powerful experience. Most of us had never entered a prison and just the control procedures for checking in and out were not very easy to do. The direct contact with the prisoners and the few words we exchanged with them made us understand a little better what it means not to have had the good fortune of a peaceful life, what it means to have grown up in conditions that led to life experiences that were ugly and often brutal enough to make you end up serving a sentence of several years. A penalty that often loses its rehabilitative function and leaves the men on their own, simply to survive in a cage.

“We saw this experience as something important enough to do again and we are already planning to repeat it on a regular basis throughout the next year.”